Blog Post 7—broadening knowledge through collaborative mapping

Overview

In class in weeks 4 and 5, we undertook collaborative mapping exercises, both within our larger issues groups, and in pairs. In this way, we came to synthesise group knowledge and unpack individual understandings of particular areas within the broader issue, in my case climate change.

Week 4

The first mapping exercise undertaken in week 4, done within our larger issues group, involved each person writing down at least 20 words that they individually associate with climate change and/or their smaller focus area within this broad topic. This generated a huge volume of words, and showed me just how broad our issue is, as well as how many different ideas and associations can be made within the topic of climate change. At the start of the exercise, I thought that everyone would come up with similar words, however, on the contrary, it has showed me that my knowledge/view of climate change is actually quite narrow and concentrated within my own focus area, the debate surrounding climate change and the different influences that affect a person’s stance on the issue.

In the next stage of the exercise, we laid all the words out across a number of tables and began to try and take all the information in. I found that with this method of collaborative mapping, it was difficult to summarise single insights into the nature of the collected data because there was so much of it. However, it could be seen that whilst there were the obvious words and phrases commonly associated with climate change, such as global warming, greenhouse gases, ozone and factories, there were also more obscure ones such as ghost nets, extinction, death, and moral obligations. I found moral obligations to be particularly interesting because I have been researching in my own focus area the factors that influence a person’s position within the climate change debate, and one of the major factors I have come across is a person’s cultural values.

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Word map created by various members of the climate change issue group

I found that the most interesting and insightful aspect of this particular group mapping exercise was when each person was asked to choose the word that most represented their current view/understanding of the issue as a whole, the results of which can be seen below:

Issue Summary
A summary of the issue of climate change by various members of the climate change issue group

The majority of the chosen words focus on the negative aspects and consequences arising from climate change, as well as groups being affected by these consequences. This suggests to me that the people who are researching the same issue as me are coming to draw the conclusion that climate change is a huge issue which is having negative and far-reaching impacts on the earth.

In week 4, we also undertook an exercise where we mapped the stakeholders involved based on the words which had been generated, however, I found that the stakeholder list was the same as the one produced in week 2, so I did not gain any new insights from this particular task.

Week 5

In week, 5, we undertook 2 group mapping exercises, both of which were mentioned in my blog post 3, but which I will expand upon in this post. The first map created in week 5 was one based on the basic stakeholder map created in week 2, but with more specific details about the stakeholders included. On the map created in week 2, we simply listed generic stakeholders, such as government, NGO’s, and media, giving a general overview with limited depth of information (and possibly knowledge). However, on this new map, having undertaken more research, we were able to go into more detail, expanding under each stakeholder with names of specific political parties, organisations, people, media sources, etc. Undertaking this task with a partner made it very beneficial as it opened up a number of specific stakeholders who I had not considered before this point. In particular, my partner had a good understanding of different not-for-profit organisations, an area which I so far had not ventured into because my focus area of the factors that influence a person’s stance on climate change has led me more towards researching political parties/views and different media news sources. One thing I did notice from undertaking this expanded stakeholder map was that whilst I expected it would provide more clarification on each stakeholder, it actually broadened the categories out, and even led to the consideration of additional stakeholder categories.

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The second map created in week 5 was a ‘polemic’ map, where we listed the controversies around climate change on the left-hand side, and the emotions that are related to each controversy on the right-hand side. After this initial mapping, we listed all the stakeholders involved with each controversy. This mapping method was extremely interesting, as it allowed myself and my partner to begin to think about and discuss the different emotions felt by different levels of stakeholder, an aspect which we have not really considered before. I found also that this related quite strongly to my research, in looking at what factors may influence a particular stance or, in this case, a particular emotion. Through this polemic map, I have come to gain a greater understanding of the dominant stakeholders within the issue of climate change as a whole, a trend which emerged through the placement of the stakeholders underneath each controversy—it could be assumed that the stakeholders who are concerned with more controversies, such as the government and media sources, are more dominant. However, with this came the realisation that the more dominant stakeholders, and thus the ones with more power, are actually quite far removed from the issue, and often possess perhaps an apathetic attitude, and take limited action. By contrast, the less dominant stakeholders probably feel more passionate about the issue, but feel powerless because they are not in a position to take any action, or they feel as though any action they do take will be pointless.

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Reflection

From undertaking the series of group mapping exercises as detailed above, I have come to gain a number of insights into the process as well as the benefits that are gained through the process. The co-creation of maps, first and foremost, presents an opportunity for the cross-pollination of ideas, as each member of the group has a different background in terms of their research and so each will have different insights based on the particular sources they have read. This sharing of knowledge provides an opportunity for each group member to expand their own knowledge within the particular issue, garnering a more comprehensive and detailed understanding in the process. In relation to this idea of shared knowledge, the maps created in this process also tend to paint a richer and more wholistic picture of the issue as there are a number of viewpoints/opinions involved, as well as information and ideas being drawn from numerous secondary sources across all members of the group. The differing viewpoints and opinions inherently present within each individual in the group also provides the opportunity for discussion and debate, which can lead to the emergence of interesting new ideas.

From my own collaboration with my peers on the creation of maps relating to climate change, I have come to gain a number of interesting insights which I had not considered before. First and foremost, I have come to understand the enormity and complexity of the issue, and the many different facets that it encompasses, as well as the many different associations people have with climate change. In light of this realisation, I will be approaching the issue of climate change with a much more open mind and more actively engaging with the views of other people on the issue. Another understanding I have gained through the co-creation of maps is the enormity of the web of stakeholders which make up the issue of climate change. There are stakeholders which have been introduced to me by my peers which I had never considered before, and this richer understanding has opened my mind to the need to perhaps go back to doing broad research, in order to myself find connections between stakeholders. Co-creating maps has also reminded me of my own bias in relation to climate change, and the need to accept that not everything I believe may be correct, and other people have their own bias.

Emilie Glasson

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